FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Monday, April 18, 2011

Poet of the Week from Libya: Fatima Mahmoud

Poet of the Week from Libya: Fatima Mahmoud

This week’s poet of the week once again hails from Libya.  I came across this poem in the excellent collection:

Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar. 

I also wrote a paper on the recent Libyan revolution:  A Coalition to What End

Excerpt from “What Was Not Conceivable”
        spill their crimson autobiographies
I said:
            the ember is the master of fire
            the ember
            is its dust . . .
            Then I become confounded . . .
            to offer . . .
            the master’s repulsive . . .
                           and delicious mouth
I am singed with happiness
with the stamps of hollowness
dipped in counterfeit songs
a scented
morning and our faces . . .
            are spat out
            in handsome
                        editions . . .
                      To offer
                                     The master’s repulsive
                                     Delicious mouth.

By Fatima Mahmoud
Translated from the Arabic by Khaled Mattawa

Fatima Mahmoud is a Libyan poet, writer, and journalist (there is a another Fatima Mahmoud who lives in England that shows up more frequently when you google-search her name).  She worked as a journalist in Libya from 1976 to 1987, and then moved to Cyprus and started a magazine (Modern Sheharazade)  focusing on Arab women’s issues, for which she served as the chief editor.  In 1995, Mahmoud sought political asylum in Germany.  Good luck find anything on her life since then.  I couldn’t find anything online, except that maybe she is the woman referenced in this article as a member of the rebel Libyan Interim Transitional National Council:

Some of my favorite poetry books:

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